Euthanized hogs now being composted in southwest Minnesota

The Minnesota Pork Producers Association is working with the state to establish three other composting sites in Minnesota.

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Heavy equipment operators move composted hog carcasses and wood chips into windrows on a parcel of land in eastern Indian Lake Township Monday afternoon. The site is where potentially thousands of market weight hogs euthanized by JBS will be delivered. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)
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ROUND LAKE, Minn. — A parcel of land in Nobles County has been transformed into a major composting operation for euthanized hogs coming from the JBS pork processing facility in nearby Worthington, as well as hogs from area farmers.

Mike Crusan, communications director with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, said delivery of hog carcasses to the southwest Minnesota site began over the weekend. The parcel of land can accommodate the delivery of up to 2,000 head per day, though it hasn’t reached peak efficiency at this point. JBS announced last week it could euthanize 3,000 head of hogs per day. The JBS packing plant in Worthington shut down temporarily because of an outbreak of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, among workers at the plant.

Crusan said the site northwest of Round Lake would not have been chosen if there were any potential environmental risks.

An incident management team that includes staff from the Board of Animal Health is overseeing the composting operation to ensure the compost pile is constructed correctly. Proper construction should eliminate the attraction of flies or scavengers, and should not emit an odor, Crusan said.

“It should just be, to the naked eye, a pile of wood chips out there,” he said. “The wood chips over the top of the pile, beneath the pile and all around it are going to be keeping all of those odors and all of those things contained as the microbes inside the pile do their work.”


The Minnesota Pork Producers Association is working with the team to establish three other composting sites in the state.

“They are trying to find other areas where there are congregations of large swine operations so they can better serve those people with a centralized site,” Crusan said, adding that farmers will have the option to deliver hog carcasses to those sites or compost on their own property.

The hog carcasses delivered to the Nobles County site will be run through the chipper simultaneously with the wood material — a new concept in the hog industry.

“This whole approach … began being evaluated in composting just within the last year because of African swine fever,” Crusan said. “The pork industry nationwide was studying ways of effectively composting mass carcasses if we were to get that in the United States.”

Chipping the hog carcasses with the carbon material was studied in the Carolinas, Crusan said. “This is one of the ways we know that we can effectively compost and probably speed up the composting process,” he said.

Crusan said they don’t yet know how many days it will take for the hogs to be fully composted, though it will be considerably shorter than the 60 days it takes for a fully intact carcass to be composted.

Once the composting process is complete, the material can either be spread over the land or incorporated, adding nutrient-rich material to the soil.

A third-party contractor was hired to operate the chipping equipment and build the compost pile in Nobles County. The composting service is being offered to farmers at no cost to them, other than trucking the carcasses to the site.


Hog producers are welcome to contact the Minnesota Board of Animal Health with questions regarding composting hog carcasses by calling 651-296-2942 or emailing The agency also has a guide for carcass disposal on its website,

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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